BLOEMFONTEIN, capital of the Orange Free State, in 29º 8' S., 26º 18' E. It is situated on the open veld, surrounded by a few low kopjes, 4518 ft. above the sea, 105 m. by rail E. by S. of Kimberley, 750 N.E. by E. of Cape Town, 450 N. by E. of Port Elizabeth, and 257 S.W. of Johannesburg.
Bloemfontein is a very pleasant town, regularly laid out with streets running at right angles and a large central market square. Many of the houses are surrounded by large wooded gardens. Through the town runs the Bloemspruit. After a disastrous flood in 1904 the course of this spring was straightened and six stone bridges placed across it. There are several fine public buildings, mostly built of red brick and a fine-grained white stone quarried in the neighbourhood. The Raadzaal, a building in the Renaissance style, faces Market Square. Formerly the meeting-place of the Orange Free State Raad, it is now the seat of the provincial council. In front of the old Raadzaal (used as law courts) is a statue of President Brand. In Douglas Street is an unpretentious building used in turn as a church, a raadzaal, a court-house and a museum. In it was signed (1854) the convention which recognized the independence of the Free State Boers (see Orange Free State: History). Among the churches the most important, architecturally, are the Dutch Reformed, a building with two spires, and the Anglican cathedral, which has a fine interior. The chief educational establishment is Grey University College, built 1906-1908 at a cost of £125,000. It stands in grounds of 300 acres, a mile and a half from the town. In the town is the original Grey College, founded in 1856 by Sir George Grey, when governor of Cape Colony. The post and telegraph office in Market Square is one of the finest buildings in the town. The public library is housed in a handsome building in Warden Street. Opposite it is the new national museum.
Bloemfontein possesses few manufactures, but is the trading centre of the province. Having a dry healthy climate, it is a favourite residential town and a resort for invalids, being recommended especially for pulmonary disease. The mean maximum temperature is 76.7° Fahr., the mean minimum 45.8°; the mean annual rainfall about 24 in. There is an excellent water-supply, obtained partly from Bloemspruit, but principally from the Modder river at Sanna's Post, 22 m. to the east, and from reservoirs at Moches Dam and Magdepoort.
The population in 1904 was 33,883, of whom, including the garrison of 3487, 15,501 were white, compared with a white population of 2077 in 1890. The coloured inhabitants are mostly Bechuana and Basuto. Most of the whites are of British origin, and English is the common language of all, including the Dutch.
The spruit or spring which gives its name to the town was called after one of the emigrant farmers, Jan Bloem. The town dates from 1846, in which year Major H.D. Warden, then British resident north of the Orange, selected the site as the seat of his administration. When in 1854 independence was conferred on the country the town was chosen by the Boers as the seat of government. It became noted for the intelligence of its citizens, and for the educational advantages it offered at the time when education among the Boers was thought of very lightly. In 1892 the railway connecting it with Cape Town and Johannesburg was completed. During the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 it was occupied by the British under Lord Roberts without resistance (13th of March 1900), fourteen days after the surrender of General Cronje at Paardeberg. In Market Square on the 28th of the following May the annexation of the Orange Free State to the British dominions was proclaimed. In 1907 the first session of the first parliament elected under the constitution granting the colony self-government was held in Bloemfontein. In 1910 when the colony became a province of the Union of South Africa under its old designation of Orange Free State, Bloemfontein was chosen as the seat of the Supreme Court of South Africa. Its growth as a business centre after the close of the war in 1902 was very marked. The rateable value increased from £709,000 in 1901 to £2,400,000 in 1905.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)